Issue 9-40 October 1, 2015

Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2015

 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with the toughest girl alive, Candye Kane. We have 5 music reviews for you including reviews of music by The Lucky Losers, Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion, The Bush League, Reverend Freakchild and TBelly.

We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

The Lucky Losers – A Winning Hand

West Tone Records

12 songs time-58:04

Great googly-moogly where has the glorious and dynamic duo of Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz been all my life? Cathy Lemons’ strong and crystal clear voice and Phil Berkowitz’ rich and mellow pipes blend together like a match made in heaven. These two stalwarts of the San Francisco music scene for many moons have joined forces for a diverse presentation consisting mainly of duets. If that isn’t enough the rest of The Lucky Losers assembled here are right on the money as they prop up the festivities with solid, funky and bluesy musicianship that is tight and appropriate at every turn in the road. Phil also happens to be a world class harmonica player. Everything gels perfectly here right down to the song selection.

Super tight and “fonky” guitar and horns lead in right off the bat as the two singers blend and trade off vocals just as natural as can be on the original “Change In The Weather”. Sam And Dave’s “I Take What I Want” falls right in place with Marvin Greene’s funky guitar and once again the vocal trade-offs fit hand-in-glove. More super fine harp playing adds to the goodness of the energy-charged soul chestnut.

Jimmy Rogers’ “What Have I Done” follows up with a fat and juicy R&B attack this time with the slinky piano of Chris Burns. The Cathy Lemons original title tune is a journey from despair to hope. Blues guitar master Steve Freund works his magic as Cathy’s voice belts it loud and clear as Phil and the backing vocals of Lisa Leuscher-Anderson enhance the wonderful soulfulness of this gem.

Cathy goes it solo on “Suicide By Love”, backed by Chris Burns’ cool jazz piano riffing along with Kid Anderson’s jazzy guitar. What a magnificent chanteuse moment. Phil chimes in once again with a perfectly fitting and tasty harmonica solo. A take on Bob Dylan’s “What Was It You Wanted” is so funky you can smell it. Organ and funky rhythm guitar propel the song.

Next up is one from New Orleans funk-meister par excel lance Allen Toussaint featuring slide guitar from Ben Rice and Nawlins styled piano from Chris Burns on “What Is Success”. A Memphis-style horn section gels with the rhythm section and Marvin Greene’s rootsy guitar “Long Hard Road”, an original that sounds like an instant classic.

“Baby You Got What It Takes” melds R&B and blues effortlessly. “Cry No More” floats along on a smooth and lovely rhythmic groove. The Lemons penned “Detroit City Man” utilizes the classic John Lee Hooker boogie beat that she learned from her time as send-off singer with “The Hook”. Cathy handles the vocals alone on this gritty ditty. She employs spoken word as well much as the master did. Slow R&B meets country on the melancholy “Don’t You Lose It” that glides along with country meets the blues guitar and mellow Wurlitzer piano to take the listener out on a soothing note.

I can’t say enough good things about this CD. Everything fits exactly into place like it was meant to be. Musicianship and production values are of the highest quality. You just can’t miss with this one, your record collection deserves it.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

 Featured Blues Interview – Candye Kane  

Ronda Rousey is one bad-ass young lady.

She’s a UFC champion, a Strikeforce champion, has several gold medals and would indeed probably ‘manhandle’ boxer Floyd Mayweather should the two ever square off in the ring.

All that being said, there’s one title that Rousey can never hope to hold:

Toughest Girl Alive.

That distinction solely belongs to San Diego blues chanteuse Candye Kane and it appears that there are no contenders on the horizon to challenge for the belt.

Find that hard to believe?

Just look at the tale of the tape.

She’s given a hay-making right cross to all those that thought she would never be anything more than just a ‘sex worker who yodeled and played hillbilly music.’

She has pounded into the canvas all those that think that Kane and her band are faking the obviously-real and electric chemistry that they exude up on the bandstand.

She’s put the sleeper hold on all those that think her social activism and political views have no place in the pantheon of blues music.

And now, for nearly the past decade, she’s got her sleeves rolled up and is duking it out with the big C – cancer.

“I have to take everything one day at a time, but I’m very fortunate to be alive. I’ve been fighting it since 2007,” she recently said. “It’s been quite a long time, but that’s OK. I’m really lucky to still be alive at all. I’m grateful for that and I think my attitude of gratitude helps my overall situation. I’ve already had two incredible surgeries that were like 12 hours long, called the Whipple (named after surgeon Allen Whipple) and that surgery is pretty radical. They remove part of your stomach, part of your bile duct, part of your liver, part of your pancreas and some other parts and then they put you all back together again. You’re supposed to be good as new and in my case, I was very quick to recover and very quick to get back to work.”

Almost as integral a part of her battle as the therapy, treatments and the many prayers and well-wishes that Kane has received, has been the music that she plays.

“I’m healed every night by the music. Some nights I feel really rotten and then I get up on stage and I’m just healed. Laura (Chavez) is such an amazing guitar player and she really has the ability to be emotional in her playing and she moves me,” Kane said. “And the rest of my band is just phenomenal; I’m really lucky to be among this group of people (Chavez; bass player Bobby Abarca; drummer Oli Ontronen) and to be playing music with them. I’m also in the amazing and fortunate position of getting in front of 50 to 500 to 5,000 people at one time and asking them to send me prayers and white light and good vibes and I really get that from the crowd; you really can feel their energy and their spirit. That’s an important component of why I’m able to do this.”

Kane’s form of cancer – Neuroendocrine Pancreatic Cancer – is a rare one, striking just one out of 100,000 people.

“It’s not treatable by chemo, so I’m not under the same kind of treatment that typical cancer patients are. I’m still losing my hair, but that’s more because I have trouble digesting proteins and have trouble digesting certain kinds of nutrients, because my liver is compromised,” she said. “So because of that, it affects me in ways that maybe a typical cancer patient is not affected. I have had small doses of radiation and I’m trying to get this treatment that is very expensive – it’s about $10,000 a treatment – that’s called PRRT (Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy). They give you an IV of radiation and the radiation goes to all the different parts in your body that are responsive to that kind of treatment. I had a test where they test all the cells in your body and all of the cells that are responsive light up, and in my case, the scan lit up like a Christmas tree; it was very, very responsive. So the treatment will be successful if I can get on this study … if I can round up the money to help pay for it. Luckily, I’ve had some very generous people come forward and say that they would pay for one treatment in its entirety, which really helps, because you need about seven or eight for it be successful.”

Those interested in helping out with Kane’s medical expenses, or who simply would like to offer thoughts and prayers, can go to to do so.

Somehow, through all the pain, all the uncertainty and the emotional roller coaster that she must be riding on, Kane has managed to continue to favor blues lovers all over the world with her fantastic art. Her songs are almost like mini novels and seem to cover the entire width and depth of the human condition with amazing ease. Her tunes move from happiness to sorrow; from light-hearted to tragic, sometimes within the framework of the very same song.

“My personal experiences influence my writing, for sure. How could it not? Really that’s all we have – what happens to us and what we endure and what we know as reality,” she said. “Songwriting is such a strange and surreal practice sometimes. Like for instance, sometimes I dream songs and I don’t know why. It’s like a third eye or something … some sort of mystical situation that happens when you’re dreaming and you tap into it. That’s happened to me several times, where I’ll dream the melody and even some of the words, so it’s not always a conscious effort. I do know that each song you write is like a baby and you love that baby and you want to take care of the baby and give the baby the best you can. For me, that’s very important. I love each song like a baby and some of them stay with me forever.”

Kane’s exceptional 2013 album – Coming Out Swingin’ (Vizztone) – is made up largely of songs that her and guitarist Laura Chavez crafted and she says that for her, having a co-writer is of the utmost importance.

“It is important, because basically I’m a poet and I write mostly prose. Then I have Laura, who is extremely musical, and she writes all of her melodies herself. She’s not as prolific in the words department and I’m not as polished in the music department,” she said. “I tend to write melodies that are very predictable and Laura is able to take those and turn them into something that’s not as predictable, with different kinds of changes. It’s great to have her, because you can’t always write with other people, even if you want to. It’s not about your ego, or their ego, it’s about let’s create the best song that we can. Songwriting is very important for me, because in the end, the legacy that I leave will be my songwriting. Nobody’s going to remember how big my boobs were, or what I did for work. They’re going to remember the songs, because they stand on their own and will still be there when I’m not.”

Chances are great that if a person were to look up the definition of ‘musical soulmate’ there would be a picture of Kane and Chavez right next to the description. That goes from the recording process to the bandstand to just hanging out when the band is off the road. The chemistry between the pair is authentic, electric and really something to behold, and in a way, is reminiscent of the inseparable bond that Buddy Guy and Junior Wells used to share.

Chavez was suggested to Kane by the great Sue Foley and the duo’s like-mindedness was there from the very outset.

“I picked her up at the airport (when Chavez first joined the band) and we were both wearing shirts with skeletons on them and we both ordered the same thing in the restaurant and the same drink and the same salad,” Kane said. “When we started talking, we realized that we both like Disneyland and are Tim Burton fans and that we both love haunted houses and that our favorite holiday was Halloween. Laura’s background is Portuguese and Mexican and she has some very interesting Latin roots, so that was also sympathetic with mine. Although I’m not either of those nationalities, I grew up in East LA in a very Latino-influenced place, so I knew about things like that. We bonded based on funny little surface things, but you’d be surprised how those surface things affect you once you’re on the road with somebody.”

Turns out that Chavez’s temperament is also right up Kane’s alley.

“She’s the only person that I’ve spent so much time with that I don’t hate. Anyone that can put up with me for more than a year deserves some kind of medal,” she laughed. “And I think she doesn’t hate me, either. It’s a deep relationship on many levels. She’s my best friend and I’ve never had a friendship that was this close or this intense. Laura is so smart and she’s learned everything about my illness. She was Pre-Med anyway and part of her wants to be a doctor and throw the whole music thing away and just concentrate on medicine. She’s smart enough to do so, but she’s also a natural at the guitar and she loves to travel and see different places and she loves the audiences, so I think she’s torn between what she wants to do.”

At one time, Chavez was content to just stay in the shadows on the fringes of the stage when she played guitar, but thanks to some work on Kane’s part, that’s changing.

“There was a time in the very beginning when Laura would shy away from the spotlight. She’d pull her hat down over her eyes and just play. She’s not super-extroverted in any way and part of her still wants to do that. But she’s not shying away from the spotlight anymore and I take some credit for that,” said Kane. “I used to literally get behind her with my body and push her up to the spotlight. That worked and now she goes up there on her own and I’m proud of that. She’s just more comfortable now and she realizes that she has her own wonderful fans who love her and her guitar playing. She wants to be known as a guitar player and not as a female guitar player. She’s my secret weapon. There’s not many guitar players that are as spontaneous or emotional as Laura is. She lets it all fly when she’s playing … she just wails.”

Living your life day-to-day is one thing, but to see a bunch of those days re-created right before your very eyes has to be another thing all by itself. Kane had that very surreal experience when a stage production was made out of memoirs that she had written about life called, fittingly, Toughest Girl Alive.

“It was weird at times … seeing yourself on stage like that is weird,” she said.

The whole project sprang to life when one of Kane’s friends got a hold of the manuscript (which she still has plans to add to and eventual publish) for her memoirs.

“The artistic director of the San Diego Ballet – Javier Velasco – is the one who adapted my book to the stage. He’s a huge fan and he knows my entire catalog. He knew it so well that he was able to take scenes from the book and then put in the right song to match the scene, which was amazing,” she said. “I was flattered. It was basically a one-woman show, except for an actress (Bethany Slomka) that played the roles of the females in my life – like my mother and grand-mother – and then there was an actor (Rob Kirk) that played the role of all the males – like my father and managers.”

Little did Kane know at that particular time just how grueling a task putting on a stage production could be.

“I had no idea. I not only had to sing the songs, but I had to remember hours of dialogue and be able to switch hats and be myself at different stages of my life,” she said. “It was hard. Even though the actual show may be only two hours long with an intermission, it still takes a lot to get ready for those couple of hours. But remembering the dialogue was the hardest part. As a kid, I always wanted to be an actress and the things that I used to audition for back then was musical theater, things like Oklahoma or The King And I … stuff like that.””

The production did not shy away one bit from touching on all aspects of Kane’s colorful – and often controversial – life. And that’s precisely the way she wanted it.

“My band was a part of the production; they were on stage and would play snippets of the songs. At that time, my son Evan was the drummer in the band and he was uncomfortable with some of the nudity and some of the things that had happened (in Kane’s life). There was no live nudity in the show, but there were some slides (shown on stage) from some parts of my life that were provocative,” she said. “He was uncomfortable with some of that and in fact, he tried to rewrite the script. But we ended up not changing anything. He said, ‘Look, you’ve worked so hard to be accepted as a songwriter and musician, why would you want to let there be these topless pictures of you?’ And I said, ‘Because it’s part of the story; it’s part of who I am. I used this part of my career – the sexuality and sexual part of me – to subsidize my musical career. It’s how I was able to get off welfare and survive financially as a teenage mother. That allowed me to hire the best musicians when I would come home from a stripping tour. That set a standard of who played on my records and on my live shows.’ So I think that helped him be a little more tolerant of the whole thing.”

Toughest Girl Alive was awarded the Critic’s Choice Award from the San Diego Critics Theater Guild in 2011. That same year, Kane was nominated for two Blues Music Awards (BMAs) – the BB King Entertainer of the Year, along with Best Contemporary Blues Female.

Regardless of how many awards she wins, or how many nominations she garners for her musical talents, something that a segment of the blues-loving population can’t seem to let go of is Kane’s sexuality. She’s openly identified herself as being bisexual and has taken part in Gay Pride parades and activities. As we know from visiting with harpist Jason Ricci (Blues Blast – May 2, 2015 issue), that can lead to some ruffled feathers.

“I agree with Jason and part of that is my friendship with Earl Thomas (openly-gay, San Diego-based bluesman). I’m friends with Jason, but I’m closer to Earl because I see him a lot more. I do think that Jason’s right that women have it easier (as far as their acceptance of being gay or bisexual) in the sense that women kissing can be a turn-on for heterosexual guys,” she said. “You can just look at television and movies and what appeared first? It was always women with full-body and full-frontal nudity that was aired first. It was the same for magazines and any kind of printed material … it was always women that were featured first, because it’s more mainstream. It’s a turn-on for heterosexual men, whereas it’s not so much of a turn-on for them when they see two guys doing it. Somebody once said, ‘I’d much rather see two smooth asses in the bed than two hairy asses in the bed.’ That was one crude way of putting it, but it’s true. Most straight men can handle two or however many women, but they can’t handle the male part of it.”

According to Kane, the way that the gay lifestyle is often sensationalized by media sources really doesn’t help, nor does it offer up much of an actual account of it, either.

“Unfortunately, the media always likes to play up the freaky guy that’s dressed up like a nun at the Gay Pride parade. Or the guy dancing it up at the disco after the Gay Pride parade in their Mardi Gras beads and their thong,” she said. “It’s the more wild and freakish part of gay life that they feature, instead of the more mainstream parts of gay life that are far more prevalent and exists way more than the wildness does.”

All the recent attention and media firestorm surrounding Rowan County (Kentucky) Clerk Kim Davis, who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples – despite a court order to do so – may actually help the world see gays in a more normal light, says Kane.

“For maybe the first time, you get to see what these normal couples look like, who are wanting to go in and get married. You see an example of gay America that’s a little more realistic than what we’ve been shown before,” she said. “I don’t she (Davis) means to be a champion for gay issues, but I think she’s more of a champion for gay rights than she even knows. This controversy is linked with gay couples and they’re showing couples who all they want to do is just get married. They’re not there to pick up on other people; they’re not there to dance the night away in their thong; they’re there because they love each other and are in a committed relationship. The majority of the people in this country who identify as gay are like those people. They have day jobs and are committed to their partners. I’ve always wondered why it becomes this weird religious, moral issue, because the Jesus I know was all about accepting everyone, no matter who they were.”

Kane would also like to see a bit more openness and diversity when it comes to the rosters at a lot of blues festivals, selection-wise.

“If you’ll notice, at a lot of these festivals, the artists are almost 80-percent male and 20-percent female. And the females that are represented are often – no offense to my friends, who I have many that are part of this group – women who look great in a short skirt and maybe it’s more about that than the music,” Kane said. “It’s like style over substance sometimes. That’s OK and that’s valid, because there’s room for everyone in my opinion. But instead of seeing eight bands with harmonicas and guys with sunglasses and hats, how about seeing one of those bands and the rest being more unusual … weird and different and unique? That’s what I’d like to see. That’s how it was on the LA scene when I was coming up. On one stage back then you could see The Circle Jerks, X, Top Jimmy & The Rhythm Pigs, Dwight Yoakam and me.”

All the ups-and-downs – along with the side-to-sides – that she’s faced throughout her life have undoubtedly resulted in turning Candye Kane into one determined woman, blessed with steely willpower and the notion to never compromise or to never give in. That goes for her musical beliefs, her social beliefs and maybe most important of all – her firm belief that she’s not yet done living.

“You have to really want to live – and it’s not so much just wanting to live, because obviously most of us want to live – and you have to really be willing to fight and to believe that you’re going to get better,” she said. “You can’t just wish it; you really have to visualize it and see yourself getting better. I try to imagine what it will be like when all this is over and I’m better … when I’m thinner and healthier than before and standing in front of a crowd of 5,000 that are applauding. That’s what I envision for myself, that’s what I focus on, in addition to getting well.”

Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2015

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Terry Mullins is a journalist, author and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He’s also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 5  

Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion – I’ll Be Yours Tonight (Live)

33 Records

12 tracks / 60:52

Sometimes bands release live albums when they have not recorded anything new in a while and they need to get something new on the market quickly. This is not the case with Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion’s new live disc, I’ll Be Yours Tonight, which is has been released hot on the heels of their Exposed disc. They had no plans to make a live album at the time, but the opportunity arose and it turned out wonderfully!

I’ll Be Your Tonight is Blue Commotion’s fourth album in three years, and their first live release. It was recorded last November during a show at Richard Dunning’s “Tuesday Night Music Club” in south London and there are twelve songs in this set, all of them Koral and Schwarz originals, with the exception of a single cover from Billie Holiday.

This United Kingdom-based band is led by Zoë Schwarz on vocals and Rob Koral on guitar; their fellow members are Pete Whittaker on the Hammond and Paul Robinson on drums. On this evening they were joined by Si Genero on the harp and backing vocals, Ian Ellis on sax, and Andy Urquhart on trumpet. This line-up results in a very rich sound as they throw down an hour of the blues with a healthy injection of jazz, soul, and rock.

Blue Commotion’s set kicks off with “Your Sun Shines Rain,” a blues rocker with crunchy guitar, pointed harp accents, and a touch of cowbell in the intro. From this song forward you will hear why they decided to burn this show to a disc: the mix is well balanced and the band is obviously having a good evening – they are tight as a drum. Zoë also has a stellar evening as her vocals are strong, and her voice is one of a kind. It is tempting to compare her sound to other famous lead singers, but on further reflection her unique tone, diction, and inflection truly make her voice unique (in a good way).

For the second track the crew dispenses the sole cover, Billie Holiday’s “Fine and Mellow,” and they gave this jazz standard a thorough rearrangement. They cut the tempo way back, added some blues, and gave Schwarz room to breathe her uncommon interpretation of the tune. The extra time and space adds a new dimension of drama to what is already a really heavy tune. The band can change moods in a heartbeat, as shown by their quick segue into “Let me Sing the Blues,” a countrified blues rocker. Pete Whittaker shines on his Hammond (with an awesome solo!) and Si Genero turns in a tasteful performance on the harp and joins in on the vocals for the chorus.

This group has a lot of depth and can carry off most any genre, and they include a lot of them in this show. One example of this is the plaintive jazzy blues of “We’ll Find a Way.” This slow song of loss and love is howled with true emotion, with an unexpected crescendo into a dramatic power ballad midway through. Then on the next track, “Say it Isn’t So,” they band unleashes a full force soul review with horns galore. These kinds of drastic changes from song-to-song could kill the momentum of an album, but this playlist was carefully sequenced, and the final result fits together very well.

After the heartfelt and soulful (though unconventionally rocking) gospel tune, “Beatitudes,” the band closes out this set with “Take Me Back.” Blue Commotion burns the club down on this one with Robinson’s jackhammer drums, Koral’s killer guitar work, and a little call and response from Si Genero. This was a cool way to finish things up, and it certainly leaves the listener wanting more.

If you want to see Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion play live, you had better make your way to England, as all of the gigs on their schedule are at clubs there, but hopefully someday they can be lured to the States with some sort of festival or blues competition. In the meantime, you might want to think about picking up a copy of I’ll Be Yours Tonight, as it is the next best thing to being there.

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 5 

The Bush League – Didn’t See This Coming


CD: 8 Songs; 64:06 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock and Hard Rock

An old saying goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Here’s a corollary: “One can’t judge a CD by the name of its artist.” A witty case-in-point is Richmond, VA’s blues rock band The Bush League. Usually, “bush league” means “second-rate or “of lesser quality”. However, in terms of their fourth album’s top-notch music, this reviewer Didn’t See This Coming. Another surprise on this release is its in-your-face opener, compared to the rest of the album. Upon hearing “Hearse”, listeners might think they’re in for far more screaming shredder than blues. Indeed, on most of the seven songs afterward, one can hear electric shredding and rapid riffs galore. The difference is that “Hearse” is a thrash-rock extravaganza, whereas the other tracks are contemporary blues. This line may still be too blurry for some fans, but others won’t mind.

According to their website, “The Bush League was founded on a front porch in 2007, not too far outside Richmond, Virginia by dynamic vocalist JohnJason ‘JohnJay’ Cecil and the heartbeat of the band, self-taught bassist Royce Folks…. Taking [a] Hill Country base and drawing upon individual influences of rock, soul, funk and gospel, The Bush League meshes those genres to create their own sound that pays homage to traditional blues with a modern feel. [Much] honing and evolving has begun to pay off, as The Bush League has become a familiar face in Memphis, TN with a member of some iteration of the band having competed in every category of The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge since 2010.”

The Bush League consists of Johnjay Cecil on lead vocals, bassist Royce Folks, guitarists Michael Burgess and Brad Moss, and drummer Wynton Davis. Together, they give their all on eight songs – six originals and two covers (“Mannish Boy”, which features Pete Turpin on harmonica, and “Tramp”, starring guest vocalist Shelly Thiss). The following three songs stay true to traditional blues, while simultaneously appealing to the genre’s postmodern side:

Track 02: “Show You Off” – From what primordial ooze did the term “trophy wife” emerge? “Put on your red dress. Slide them high heels on your feet. Rub that perfume on your neck, baby, that smells good, that make you smell so sweet.” Its sly rhythm and kicky guitar refrain will get crowds on their feet.

Track 03: “Tramp” – If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is the coveted status of being rich, as this hit by Lowell Fulsom and Jimmy McCracklin demonstrates. “Your cash money don’t mean [dung] to me…You’re a tramp; that’s all I see,” guest vocalist Shelly Thiss declares. The electric guitar solo in the middle of this song is chock-full of frustration and regret.

Track 06: “Frysumfish” – Seafood lovers rejoice! Song number six sizzles especially for y’all. It’s a funky, ‘70’s-inspired boogie that’s sure to be a hit at outdoor festivals. Even if people can’t understand the lyrics, their “fish flippers” will understand how to dance.

Didn’t See This Coming is a surprisingly-good blues rock smorgasbord!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 35 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 5 

Reverend Freakchild – Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues

Treated and Released Records

CD: 10 Songs; 37:31 Minutes

Styles: Drone/Trance Blues, Acoustic Blues, Folk

When yours truly opened up the CD case of New York City-based Reverend Freakchild’s third album, out fluttered a promotional sticker. It featured a quote from Living Blues Magazine: “His attitude is irreverent, but his enthusiasm for the blues is clear.” Truly, a better summary could not be composed for Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues. This cryptic title follows in the vein of those from the Reverend’s first two releases, Chaos & Country Blues and God Shaped Hole. Freakchild has several aliases, including Billy, Bhoomisparsha, Fordham, Sal Paradise, Swaraj, and Floyd Graves (check his website for proof). These many incarnations fit in with a Wikipedia revelation: “In an interview, Freakchild mentioned that he is a Buddhist, but that he also considers music to be his religion. Freakchild states that the blues and Buddhism can both be seen as ways of confronting reality and the truth of human suffering.”

The “Bio” section of his webpage states, “In the tradition of such Blues Reverends as Rev. Gary Davis, such is the irreverent Reverend Freakchild. Like John Hammond Jr., he is a student of the Blues. He has played in many bands, including an early incarnation of Soul Coughing with M. Doughty, leaving to form the roots-rock jam band Bananafish in Boston and then on to some work with The Neptune Ensemble, The Soul Miners (w/guitar virtuoso Matt Rae), The Lucky Devils and The Cosmic All-Stars touring internationally. [He] has also served as a member and featured soloist of the Metro Mass Gospel Choir performing at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fischer Hall and the Town Hall Theater. The Rev’s music has been featured in many TV programs and commercials, and also national radio advertising campaigns.”

What of his music? Like Zen Buddhism, it’s contemplative and esoteric, meant to empty one’s mind of worries and fears and fill it with peace. Joining him in performing ten tracks (eight originals written by Freakchild, one original by co-producer Hugh Pool, and one arrangement of a traditional tune) are Chris Parker on drums and percussion, Hugh Pool on lap-steel guitar and harmonica, Tugboat Eustis on bass, John Ragusa on flute, and background vocals by the Mulebone Singers. Freakchild himself does lead vocals, guitars and “Holy Ghost Sounds”.

The following track sounds the most like traditional blues, which will satisfy die-hard fans:

Track 07: “She Wants My Name” – Written by Hugh Pool, this gritty stomp features his keen harmonica skills and Freakchild’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “She wants my name; she wants my name. She gave me her body for now.” Even though the Reverend’s lead vocals are flat and conversational, like those heard at a poetry slam, they portray our narrator’s frustrated numbness. “I’m just a man,” he repeats, leading listeners to suspect his lover wants a superhero instead.

Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues is nothing short of an enigma, one that purists may not be inclined to unravel. However, those who want to mellow out and let tranquility suffuse their souls will find this CD a welcome respite from electric-guitar shredding!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 35 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 5 

TBelly – Dead Men Don’t Pray

Cabin Music

11 songs – 44 minutes

“The truth is, I didn’t discover the blues…. It discovered me.” This may be true for many blues fans and musicians around the world, but it comes as something of a surprise when spoken by Russell Keefe, long-time keyboardist for Les McKeown’s legendary Bay City Rollers. Many people (in the UK, at least) associate the Bay City Rollers with slightly saccharine early-1970s pop music. By contrast, Dead Men Don’t Pray is a powerful and highly enjoyable slab of muscular, modern blues-rock played by Keefe’s new band, TBelly.

Al Richardson’s choppy solo harmonica riff opens the first track on the album, “Tie It On My Face”, quickly joined by drums and a superb bouncing bass line before the vocals and other instruments help to build up a driving, classic rock song. The band is a top drawer ensemble, playing with a delicate balance of authority and edge-of-the-seat abandon. Kevin Magill and Riad Abji form a rock solid rhythm section (the groove on the title track could wake the dead, even if they don’t then pray), with Debs Bonomini adding backing vocals and acoustic guitar. Ross Ian Lardner contributes a number of superb, melodic guitar solos on tracks like “I’ll Get You Home” and “Best Out Of You”. The electric guitar is the primary solo instrument on the album, which is perhaps a shame, not as any criticism of Lardner, but simply because Keefe is clearly a first-rate ivory tickler and it would have been good to hear him stretch out himself on occasion. Instead, the keys add flashes of supportive color to songs like “Where’s The Doctor”, “Dead Men Don’t Pray” and “Lie In The Desert”. What Keefe does bring to this particular party however is his songwriting and his voice.

He wrote or co-wrote 10 of the songs on the album (Lardner contributed “Respectable Man” and co-wrote “Broken” with Keefe) and there isn’t a dud on display. With clever lyrics and a nice line in half-rhymes (“Nearly free, I have one foot out of the grave. So for the rest of my days, there’ll be times when the dead men don’t pray.”), memorable vocal melodies (the unexpected line over the acoustic guitar introduction to “Best Out Of You” is particularly catching) and intelligently written tracks (“Night At The Ritz” goes from jazz to rock and back to jazz with élan), many of which benefit from catchy choruses (perhaps some of that BCR influence did rub off after all), the songs all stand by themselves. When combined with Keefe’s voice, however, they evolve into something altogether different. Keefe is blessed with a deep, rough-hewn voice that comes from the same stable as Tom Waits, Joe Cocker and John Campbell whilst retaining its own timbre and tone. Another point of reference could be the great Lee Brilleaux, whose voice carried a similar undercurrent of danger and violence, even on the rare love songs that Dr Feelgood recorded.

This is blues-rock in the best sense of the term. It is not an album of over-played, over-driven, simplistic twaddle. It is album of maturity and depth, played with emotional sincerity and technical prowess.

Dead Men Don’t Pray was recorded at Brighton Electric Studios in England and Paul “Win” Winstanley deserves kudos for capturing a superb sound. The album is also nicely packaged in a smart cardboard gatefold sleeve. Altogether, it is a very impressive effort from TBelly. If you like your rock with a heavy slice of blues in every track, this album is for you.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

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Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, IL

Crossroads Blues Society is working hard to keep the blues alive. Starting with our first two Blues in the Schools programs and an evening show after them and a great show by Liz Mandeville, this fall will be an exciting time in Northern Illinois

Our second Saturday monthly blues at the Hope and Anchor English Pub in Loves Park, IL go on. Josh Hoyer appears on October 10th, the Jimmy’s are in on November 14th and our annual Christmas Party and show will feature Jimmy Nick and Don’t Tell Mama at the Pub. $5 cover after 7 PM.

First and third Fridays at the Lyran Society Club on 4th Ave in Rockford: 10/2, 11/6 and 12/4: The New Savages, 10/16: Roy Orbison Tribute, 11/20 Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames (CD Release Party), and 12/18 The Blues Hawks Acoustically. All shows are 7 to 10 PM and there is a fish fry or steak dinner available. No cover, open to the public.

The AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs will once again feature blues bands from 5:15 to 6:45 PM prior to every Friday home game. 10/23 is the New Savages, 10/30 is Recently Paroled, 11/27 is Dan Phelps and 12/11 is Macyn Taylor. There are 7 more Friday games in 2016.

First Sunday Blues at All Saints are from 4 to 6 PM. 10/4 is the Saltines with Ted Lawrence and Chuck Scordato, The Blues Hawks are 11/1 and Macyn Taylor on 1/6. Shows are free, donations go to People Helping People, the local food pantry.

Our Blues Challenge is on Sunday, October 11th starting at 4 PM at Mary’s Place in Rockford. $5 admission.

Planning for 2016 include brining Tad Robinson, John Primer and many others into the Rockford area for shows. Stay tuned for more upcoming events!

The Detroit Blues Society – Detroit, MI

On Saturday October 10,2015 the Detroit Blues Heritage Series will present “Blues Meets Soul” featuring Bobby Murray with special guest Wyles “Red” Redding. This event will take place from 2:00PM until 4:30PM at the historic Scarab Club. The Scarab Club is located at 217 Farnsworth in Detroit’s Cultural Center. The Detroit Blues Society and the Scarab Club produce this event jointly. A $5.00 donation is requested.

The Detroit Blues Society is a 501(c) 3 non-profit dedicated to the preservation, education and advancement of the Blues tradition as it relates to the Metro Detroit area.

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for the Blue Monday live performances and jam sessions held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Oct. 5 – Nigel Mack, Oct. 12 – The Cadillac Daddy’s, Oct. 19 – The 24th Street Wailers, Oct. 26 – Rockin Johnny

Additional ICBC shows: Oct. 1 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm Guest host: Robert Sampson, Oct. 15 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm Guest host: Steve the Harp Blues Band

Questions regarding this press release can be directed to Michael Rapier, President of ICBC, at at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at or by visiting

P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555     © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine (309) 267-4425

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